by Colleen Kearney Rich
‘Everything falls apart eventually,’ she says.
She is trying to be reassuring. He is going through the box of things he has taken out of the old truck: A little notebook he kept track of the mileage in after the gas gauge stopped working, the jumper cables he kept mostly to rescue people like her, a filthy flashlight. He tries to click the flashlight on, but it’s dead. He chucks it back into the box. Who knows how long it had been in the glove compartment. It doesn’t even look familiar to him.
‘It was a good old truck,’ she says.
‘You don’t need to be here,’ he says as he puts the paperwork in order on the counter.
‘I know,’ she says. ‘I’m just puttering.’
He looks out the kitchen window at the truck parked in front of the house. It is an eyesore, but it also represents almost twenty years of his life. He can still remember the payment book he got for it and writing that last check. It was as stripped down as a Toyota came back then. He put the radio in himself. Now he can see through part of the bed, a rusty lace on the back panel by the rear wheel.
‘You know rust is a combustion reaction,’ she says.
Her voice startles him. He turns to look at her. ‘What did you say?’
‘Rust, it’s like fire, you know,’ she says. She is holding a cup of coffee and leaning against the kitchen counter. ‘It’s the same reaction, you know, combustion, just so much slower that it doesn’t create flames.’
‘Is that so?’ He turns to look out the window.
‘Oh, babe, call it off if you don’t want to do it,’ she says. ‘It still runs. You don’t have to donate it.’
‘No, it’s time. It won’t pass inspection. It is illegal. It shouldn’t even be on the street.’
‘Awww,’ she says. ‘It was a trooper. How many moves did you make in the truck? Five, six?’
‘At least,’ he says. He can picture some of those apartments, shared houses so vividly. It doesn’t seem that long ago.
He returns to the paperwork. He wants to have the stuff ready when the tow truck arrives so he is trying to figure out where he should sign the form.
‘I love this album,’ she says, pulling a cracked cassette case of Neil Young’s “Harvest” out of the cardboard box on the counter. ‘We have this on CD, don’t we?’
‘Could you not touch that right now?’ he says. ‘I don’t even know what’s in there. Can you not?’
She drops the cassette back into the box and washes her hands in the sink. He thinks he can hear the rumble of the tow truck. Damn, they are already here, he thinks and tries to concentrate on the paperwork.
‘It’s better to burn out than to fade away,’ she sings, and pours herself more coffee.
‘Wrong album,’ he says.
‘Hmmm?’ she says, still humming the song.
‘That’s “Rust Never Sleeps” not “Harvest,”’ he says.
The white flatbed truck pulls in front of the house slowly. It is a brilliant fall day—the sun is strong, the sky is a solid blue, the leaves are a crazy orange. In contrast, the truck looks frail, like an old man, like Clint Eastwood in that drug movie. He remembers watching it and thinking, Jesus, man, why not retire? This truck deserves to retire.
He signs the title and puts the pen down. ‘I’ve got this,’ he says, picking up the keys.
Colleen Kearney Rich is the author of the chapbooks Things You Won’t Tell Your Therapist (Finishing Line Press, 2019) and Bunnyman Bridge (The A3 Press, 2021). Her writing has been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, matchbook, and Pithead Chapel, among others. She lives in Virginia, and you can find her on Twitter at @colleenrich.